Did You Know: Calgary Has Leash Laws

Yesterday the hot topic in local news and social media was the story of a person walking his/her dogs off-leash in an on-leash area at Nose Hill Park: one of the dogs got caught in a toothless trap designed to catch coyotes for a University of Calgary research study, performed in conjunction with the City of Calgary.

Those are the facts and you can check out the hyperlinks for more details.

Outrage ensued, Twitter and Facebook fired up, and complaints were made to the City, the University, and the Humane Society, such that the study was put on pause less than 24 hours after the incident.

If you ask me, this seems like blaming a car for hitting you when you purposefully walk into oncoming traffic.

The dog was off-leash… in an on-leash area.  The traps were specifically put in densely wooded on-leash areas (and are only active between sunset and sunrise) to prevent this very thing.  And to suggest a child could get caught in them as well (as I’ve seen some do) is just hyperbole.

One affronted person tweeted an Alderman to ask what bylaws apply to this situation.

Let me tell you: Bylaw Number 23M2006, section 12, which states owners of dogs shall ensure they are not running at large, meaning off-leash, not under control, and can still include on-leash dogs if they cause harm or distress to others.

Alma and Moses in Nose Hill Park. Note the leashes, the close proximity to me as I take photos, and the controlled sit-stay. 

This dogs-at-large rule applies to both on-leash and off-leash areas.  So yes, that even means if you can’t control your dog at the dog park – have them come in when you call, for example – that is still considered “at large” even if it’s a designated off-leash area.

Outside of designated off-leash areas, dogs are to be on leashes no more than 2 metres long (that means, yes, flexi-leashes are against bylaw!).  While on city pathways, dogs are to walk on your right-hand side away from oncoming pedestrians, bikes, and other dogs, and are not to interfere with others.   It’s all in the bylaw; did I just blow your mind?

As for the case at hand, the University research team posted signs in the parks at least 50 metres from the traps.  This means as the owner was reading the sign, the dogs was out of sight and 50 metres away – not under control or on-leash, and therefore definitely at large.

Nose Hill Park frequently has signs posted warning of studies, surveys, animal warnings, and pesticide sprays.

Now I know most signage gets ignored – Caution, Hot!  Wet Paint.  Please Use Other Door.  Cash Only.  Out of Order. Slippery Floors – but as a responsible dog owner using a large park that is famous for coyotes (obviously, hence the study), deer, and porcupines, caution and awareness should be your priority.

Rather than throwing the hammer down on the City and the University for undertaking a study that undoubtedly will have interesting results that are beneficial to dog owners (lots of little dogs lose their lives to coyotes in that very park every year), I’d prefer to see this situation touted as an educational opportunity to better inform the public about leash laws, training, and responsible pet ownership.

Because the bottom line is that if the dog was on-leash as it should have been, this never would have happened.

Geez, pair this with the Nose Hill Gentlemen incident and perhaps it’s better to avoid that park altogether.  (I jest.)

As a dog owner, it is your responsibility to look out for your dog’s safety and wellbeing at all times.  That means staying on-leash in on-leash areas, observing pet bylaws, undergoing training, and being realistic about the control and supervision you have in off-leash situations.  If you can’t guarantee their safety, don’t take the risk.

Not to mention, it’s irresponsible or unaware owners who ruin it for the rest of us by creating valid complaints about this city’s dog owners and their perceived lack of care and attention to park and pathway etiquette and bylaws.

These are the very bylaws that earn Calgary international praise for our Responsible Pet Ownership mandate and help keep unfortunate dog incidents out of the news, but that doesn’t mean very much if no one knows about them or abides by them.

The good news is that the dog in question walked away from the incident free of harm, but unfortunately, in my opinion, the media and commentary surrounding the story has missed the lesson entirely.

The Husband, myself, and Moses at Nose Hill Park

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Why Ban Pet Sales?

Well the debate sure has heated up here on the Soapbox as a result of my request for the City of Calgary to implement a ban on the sale of companion pets in pet stores.  The proposed by-law amendment is similar to ones already in place in several US cities and the one recently passed in Richmond, B.C.  Richmond is the first Canadian city to introduce such a by-law, and it looks like Langley, B.C. might soon be the second.

And why am I proposing this ban?  A couple of simple reasons.  To review:

1.  Decrease the sales of puppies bred in “puppy mills” and bring a more widespread awareness of the issue of puppy mills in the first instance.  Pet stores are the most visible sales medium for these substandard, high volume breeders.

2.  Put an end to impulse pet purchases.  The addition of a dog or cat to the family is not something to be taken lightly, but it often is, resulting in the surrender of dogs and cats to rescue organizations when unprepared purchasers will or can no longer care for them.  To ban the sale of companion animals in pet stores will decrease these impulse pet purchases, relieving some of the strain on local animal rescues.  Since the City of Albuquerque, NM, imposed a by-law banning commercial pet sales, they report animal adoptions have increased by 23% and euthanasia at city shelters has decreased by 35%. 

Of course, implementing a ban such as this has some pretty strong critics, not the least of which is Petland, as anyone following my blog knows.  I can only assume such a ban will detrimentally affect their bottom line, or they wouldn’t be so opposed to the suggestion that they instead feature pets from rescue agencies in their stores.  (I should note a Petland location in East Liberty, PA has in fact opted to do this anyway, even though the city has no such ban in place.)  The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council of Canada (PIJACC) also openly opposed the ban in Richmond. 

The critics claim a widespread acknowledgement that banning the commercial sale of pets is the wrong approach and that provincial legislation is more appropriate to put an end to puppy mills (think Prop B in Missouri).  Of course that kind of solution also has many critics (again, think Prop B in Missouri). 

First, I actually find that this “widespread acknowledgement” isn’t really there.

The BC SPCA writes “Reputable breeders do not sell to pet stores; puppy mills do.”

The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies writes: “Many pet store puppies are born to suffering, malnourished dogs in puppy mills.”

The Humane Society International/Canada writes: “HSI Canada applauds Richmond (a Vancouver suburb) City Council for drafting a bylaw amendment that will ban the sale of puppies in commercial pet stores. […] Investigations have shown time and again that the vast majority of puppies sold in pet stores come from puppy mills, cruel mass-production facilities where the breeding dogs are often confined to small wire cages for life and often deprived of the basics of humane care, solely to produce puppies for the pet trade. HSI Canada hopes that Richmond’s actions will inspire other councils across Canada to take similar actions to combat the cruel conditions in which dogs are factory-farmed for profit, and congratulates Richmond for having the courage to be the first city in Canada to take this important step towards reducing the demand for puppy mill puppies.”

And while I certainly would support most provincial initiatives to regulate, monitor, and otherwise police high volume breeding facilities in an effort to put an end to puppy mills, the fact is that a municipality banning the sale of companion animals in pet stores is still a quick, effective, and important step to take.  Consider, for example, the City of Richmond, which found upwards of 90 pet store dogs per year were surrendered to the city-run shelter for various reasons – and Richmond only has three stores that actually sells pets (until April 2011, that is).  It is not only a burden upon the shelters who to care for and re-home these animals, but also the municipality and its taxpayers who pay for the shelter services.  Not to mention that a municipal solution is going to be the most effective, as it is more easily implemented (to the best of my knowledge, the provincial government doesn’t currently have this issue on the agenda), and it is the individual cities who regulate businesses with their respective by-laws.  And finally, while the province may regulate breeders within its borders, pet stores still often obtain dogs and cats from out-of-province, and even out-of-country, sources.  Instead, a city by-law amendment covers all these bases.

While considering this issue, I decided look back and see how Richmond determined to push through and become the first Canadian city to ban the sale of dogs and puppies in pet stores, and the following is taken from City Council Minutes.

Council Meeting, Monday, February 8, 2010

Marcie Moriarty, General Manager of Cruelty Investigations for the BC SPCA, was in favour of banning the sale of dogs in storefronts.  Ms. Moriarty spoke of concerns related to dogs being sold in stores, noting that although pet stores claim that their dogs come from loving homes, these stores often hide behind puppy brokers.  In March 2009, CBC aired a documentary that exposed Hunte Corporation, a puppy broker, and showed the conditions in which puppies are kept.

Ms. Moriarty noted that currently there are no regulations or authority that oversees dog breeders.  Thus, pet stores can claim anything on their websites.  In regards to Richmond pet stores’ claim that their dogs come from ‘licenced breeders’, she questioned who licenced them.

She commented that neither the members of the Canadian Kennel Club nor other reputable breeders sell to pet stores as they do not know where their puppy will go. […]

In response to queries from Committee, Ms. Moriarty advised the following that (i) puppy mills are only in business because they have buyers; and (ii) although some puppies from mills may be healthy, they are bred in poor conditions.

Christie Lagally, volunteer with the Richmond Animal Protection Society (RAPS), distributed materials and spoke in favour of banning the sale of dogs in storefronts.  Ms. Lagally stated that RAPS would like to see a full ban as many puppies purchased from Richmond pet stores are surrendered to RAPS within the first two years.

She spoke of figures related to surrendered or abandoned purebreds, and noted that almost every jurisdiction in BC consistently only sees 25% of purebreds surrendered or abandoned.  However, in Richmond this figure is 57%.

Ms. Lagally advised that surrender forms are included in the materials she distributed and noted that many of the forms indicate that the dogs were purchased from Richmond pet stores.  Also, she referenced a petition in favour of banning the sale of dogs in storefronts.

Ernest Ang, owner of the Richmond Pet Habitat, was opposed to the proposed ban.  He stated that Richmond pet stores comply and perhaps exceed the standards of care set out by the Canadian Veterinarian Medical Association, humane societies, and the SPCA.  He advised that Pet Habitat only receives puppies from government certified facilities.  Mr. Ang was of the opinion that the banning of puppies being sold in Richmond stores would increase unregulated ‘backyard breeding’ and would create unfair competition for Richmond pet stores.

In response to the previously referenced CBC documentary, Mr. Ang noted that the video was one-sided and as such CBC has removed the link to the video on its website.  He concluded by stating that pet stores want to be part of the solution and he invited the City to work with them. …

Discussion ensued regarding Richmond’s current dog bylaw, and in reply to a query made by Committee, Wayne Mercer, Manager, Community Bylaws, advised that only three dogs are permitted per household.  He clarified that puppies are not considered dogs until six months of age.  […]

Discussion ensued regarding the CBC documentary and in response to comments made by Committee, Mr. Ang advised that Pet Habitat is against puppy mills and he has visited Hunte Corporation breeders.  He noted that he would share more information regarding Hunte Corporation.

Sarah Henderson, representing PJ’s Pets, spoke in opposition to banning the sale of dogs in pet stores, and noted that a 2008 study conducted by Ipsos Reid indicated that only 10% of dogs owned by Canadians came from pet stores.  The remaining 90% come from other sources, therefore, selling dogs in stores is not a problem.  Ms. Henderson was of the opinion that a ban of the sale of dogs in pet stores will decrease jobs in Richmond as PJ’s Pets has a particular position that solely deals with the care and wellbeing of puppies:  Kennel Technician. …

In reply to queries from Committee, Ms. Henderson advised that (i) an employee of PJ’s Pets selects breeders; (ii) PJ’s Pets puppies come from a family-oriented environment within Canada; (iii) puppies are checked by PJ’s Pets’ veterinarian once they arrive at the store; and (iv) Kennel Technicians receive in-store training.

Cheri Simmons, former Store Manager for PJ’s Pets, was opposed to banning the sale of dogs in storefronts.  She was of the opinion that this ban would take away accountability and responsibility to find good homes for dogs.  There are no rules regulating breeders, therefore pet stores, which are regulated, are better places to purchase dogs. 

Ms. Simmons spoke of PJ’s Pets efforts to work with RAPS and indicated RAPS’ Board of Directors declined to work with them as they did not endorse the sale of animals in pet stores. 

In reply to queries from Committee, she noted that (i) better records should be kept in relation to where puppies come from; and (ii) PJ’s Pets does screen potential puppy buyers in order to match the future owner to the proper dog. […]

Gary Batt, President, Petland Surrey, spoke in opposition to banning the sale of dogs in storefronts.  Mr. Batt spoke of his involvement with the National Board of Directors of the Pet Industry in Canada and highlighted his participation during the creation and implementation of regulations related to dogs being brought into Canada.

Mr. Batt spoke of dogs being members of families, and companions. He stated that many parties are concerned with the proper breeding of any animal, and noted that his pet store attempts to regulate breeding and care as much as possible.  Mr. Batt stated that he does not support puppy mills and believed that pet stores are not the problem, but instead part of the solution.  He commented that often he sees puppies for sale on the side of the street and there are lists of puppies for sale in the classified ads of newspapers and on the internet.

Also, Mr. Batt advised that Canada does not licence or regulate the breeding of dogs, therefore there are no standards for kennels, no regulations, and no inspections.  He noted that such licences and regulations fall under the Provincial governments’ mandate.  […]

Council Meeting, October 12, 2010

For the ban:

Christie Lagally, Animal Welfare Advocacy Coalition (AWAC), spoke in support of banning the sale of dogs in storefronts.  Ms. Lagally referenced the gratitude that had been expressed to her and other animal welfare groups since the City’s proposal to change Business Licence Bylaw No. 7538 to ban the sale of dogs in pet stores.  Ms. Lagally then had all members in the audience in support of the ban raise their hands to illustrate the support to Council.

In conclusion Ms. Lagally read a statement from a City of Coquitlam Councillor who expressed her support for a province wide ban of the sale of dogs in pet stores, as well as increased sentences and fines for animal abuse and abandonment. 

Lori Chortyk, General Manager, Community Relations BC SPCA, spoke in support of banning the sale of dogs in storefronts.  Ms. Chortyk indicated that there is a perception that banning the sale of dogs in storefronts would drive the puppy mill industry underground.  She pointed out that the puppy mill industry is already underground, and that is why the industry has managed to survive.  In conclusion, she thanked Council for its consideration of this issue, noting that the BC SPCA has been inundated with feedback from people who are saying that proceeding with the ban would be a landmark decision, and that many other jurisdictions are watching this matter closely.

Helen Savkovic, Richmond Animal Protection Society, spoke in support of banning the sale of dogs in storefronts.  In an effort to create an image of the living conditions and dangers that puppy mill dogs are exposed to, Ms. Savkovic referred to a number of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Reports for various breeders’ sites and provided examples of infractions and spoke of the related dangers.

Kristin Bryson, Director, BC SPCA, spoke in support of banning the sale of dogs in storefronts.  Ms. Bryson spoke about how some US exporters of puppies being brought into the City of Richmond as well as numerous other Canadian cities, suggest that those puppies are from a licensed USDA source and that those puppies come from parents that are healthy and humanely cared for when they are not. 

Ms. Bryson made reference to the May 2010 report entitled “Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Animal Care Program Inspections of Problematic Dealers”, from the USDA Inspector General’s Office, (on file City Clerk’s Office), and advised that the Inspector General identified the following concerns: (i) the enforcement process was ineffective against problematic dealers; (ii) inspectors did not cite and document violations properly, or support enforcement actions; (iii) inspectors mis-used guidelines resulting in lower penalties for violators. 

She also advised that at this time there are only 99 inspection officers employed by the USDA and that they are responsible for inspections of dog breeders as well as other animal facilities such as zoos and labs.  Ms. Bryson further noted that when violations were actually recorded, enforcement action beyond an official warning was only given in 4% of the cases.

Rae Goodridge, Manager, Richmond BC SPCA, spoke in support of banning the sale of puppies in storefronts, and described her experience when purchasing a puppy from a breeder.  Ms. Goodridge advised that she had to go through an intense approval process which included a three page application form.  She noted that this breeder had allowed the dogs to live in her home and play in her yard.  She commented that animals that are shipped to pet stores are usually treated as livestock rather than pets.  She also noted that the SPCA provides information on reputable breeders for anyone searching for pure bred puppies that may otherwise be difficult to find in rescue shelters.

Don Clintoff, Richmond resident, spoke as a taxpayer, stating that he financially supported the animal shelters and that he did not see any shortage of animals for adoption in Richmond.  He expressed his belief that the pet stores do not have a strong argument against the ban on the sale of dogs in storefronts as they sell other products.  He remarked that unless there is a very large mark-up on pets, the marginal impact associated with the proposed ban  should be minimal to the pet stores.  In closing, Mr. Clintoff stated that the shelters are subsidized by taxpayers funding to collect and store animals, and that something had to be done to protect the taxpayers from expenditures that should not be happening.

Naz Gamadia, Richmond resident, stated that when searching for a puppy for herself, she researched breeders, shelters, and pet stores for approximately one year.  Ms. Gamadia stated that she found that most of the employees of the numerous pet stores she visited in Vancouver and Richmond did not have much knowledge about the dogs that were for sale in the stores.  She noted that the breeders and rescue shelters were able to provide far more information regarding different breeds and best care practices.  She also stated that pet stores do not take puppies back after seven days, whereas the rescue shelters will always take the animals back if the owner is no longer able to provide proper care.

Against the ban:

Roger Somm, National Director, Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council of Canada (PIJAC), spoke in opposition to the banning of dogs in storefronts, and spoke of his involvement in the development of the Province of Manitoba’s Animal Care Act (on file City Clerk’s Office).  He also spoke about some of the regulations within the Act, including: (i) mandatory reporting of suspected abuse; (ii) increased fines for animal abuse; and (iii) licensing of pets stores, breeders, and shelters across Manitoba.

In answer to queries, Mr. Somm advised that it took approximately a year and a half to implement the new regulations in Manitoba, and that he had not made contact with the provincial government in BC to start a process similar to the one in Manitoba.

Robert Church, National Director, Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council of Canada, advocate for responsible pet ownership, and pet store owner, provided an overview of the work he has done in the pet industry for the past 25 years.  He spoke in opposition to banning the sale of dogs in storefronts, and requested Council to take a leadership role in abolishing substandard breeding operations across BC by encouraging, lobbying, and demanding that the provincial government establish an animal care act that licenses, regulates and inspects all breeders, pet stores and animal shelters.  Mr. Church questioned the rationale of the proposed ban which would “shut down” the only visible source of puppies that the public, the City, and animal protection officers are able to monitor.

Margaret Schmitky, Sr. Field Representative, Pet Land Canada, spoke in opposition to the banning of dogs in storefronts, and stated that Pet Land Canada was one of the largest full line pet stores in Canada, and that their 400 employees across Canada loved pets.  She advised that Pet Land has been regulating itself in accordance with PJAC guidelines and the Canadian Code of Kennel Practices.  She further advised that every Pet Land location has one or more companion animal purchaser and that their job is to actively investigate and inspect every puppy breeder before purchasing pets.

Ms. Schmitky stated that she personally believed that the proposed bylaw to ban the sale of dogs in storefronts had been brought forward with good intentions and emotion, but lacked futuristic and logical thinking.  She expressed her belief that the proposed ban would leave the public with little choice but to purchase puppies outside of their jurisdictions or directly from puppy breeders.  In conclusion, she stated that the only viable option to eradicate puppy mills is by implementing provincial legislation for regulation and licensing of breeders.

Gary Batt, owner, Petland Surrey, and formerly a representative of the PIJAC, spoke against the banning of dogs for sale in storefronts.  He stated that the pet industry was nationally setting standards to find a real solution to deal with the issue of puppy mills.  Mr. Batt stated that the provincial government should bring in strong licensing and regulation requirements. He expressed his belief that the City of Richmond’s proposed action was wrong and attacked the only publicly visible source of puppies in Richmond.

In conclusion Mr. Batt advised that he operates his pet store in the highest standards and has a willingness to work with City Council.  He urged Council to table the proposed ban and refer the matter back to staff for further investigation.  He encouraged the City to approach the province to regulate puppy breeding, and to join together with the Richmond Animal Protection Society (RAPS) and the BC SPCA to resolve the puppy mill problem in BC.  He also stated that pet stores behave much more responsibly than many believe.

Tim Hansen, Assistant Store Manager, PJs Pets, spoke in opposition to banning the sale of dogs in storefronts, stating that the City was about to make a huge mistake by driving the supply of dogs even further underground, which would result in uncontrolled and unregulated sale of dogs.  Mr. Hansen stated that pet stores represent a known reputable source for the community to purchase pets.  He suggested that the City undertake more regulatory measures to deal with the matter and questioned where people would get their pets once the reputable sources have been eliminated. 

Mr. Hansen advised that an online poll indicated that the majority of residents were opposed to such a ban.  He also provided information related to the number of dogs for sale in Richmond pet stores in comparison to internet sites such as Kijiji.  In conclusion, Mr. Hansen stated that if the City of Richmond approached the provincial government regarding regulation of dog breeding operations, it would have the pet industry’s support. 

Ernest Ang, owner of the Richmond Pet Habitat, spoke in opposition to banning the sale of dogs in storefronts, and expressed his frustration, stating that he had been a proud member of Richmond’s business community until the issue of puppy mills and cruelty to animals had emerged.  He stated that his store attracts business into Richmond because a portion of his customers are from other jurisdictions.  Mr. Ang concluded by stating that he would like to work with the BC SPCA and RAPS, and advised that he has suggested that they work together to market and find good homes for unwanted pets in Richmond’s rescue shelters. 

Josef Demcak, Richmond Resident, spoke against the banning of dogs in storefronts, expressing his belief that his rights were shrinking.  He stated that every time a group decided to speak up, the City implemented a new bylaw and the City’s residents were stripped of their basic rights.  He expressed frustration that the proposed ban would take away the right to go to a neighbourhood pet store to buy a puppy.  Mr. Demcak stated that people needed education on this matter rather than a bylaw. 

Bob Harrison, Richmond resident, spoke in opposition to the banning of dogs in storefronts, expressing his belief that such a ban would drive the sellers underground.  He noted that pet stores are the only controlled source of puppies.  Mr. Harrison stated that responsible laws to outlaw puppy mills and abuse of animals are required and urged City Council to think seriously about maintaining control over the industry and solving the problem rather than banning dogs from the pet stores. 

The End

Even the inattentive should notice that the debate that took place last month in Richmond is the same as the one going in my little blog.  Even some of the cast is making an encore appearance, and the arguments and objections sound very familiar.

Will such a ban completely solve the puppy mill problem?  No, unfortunately it will not.  As long as there are irresponsible people out there purchasing puppy mill dogs, they will remain in business.  But we should do what we can – and what will be effective – in the meantime.

And, finally, to those who may think puppy mills are an American phenomenon, and need not be a pressing concern for Calgarians or Canadians: you are absolutely incorrect.  Here are some select examples of puppy mills discovered in our midst:
Abbotsford, B.C., September 2010
Southern Alberta, February 2010
Edmonton, Alberta, October 2009
Winnipeg, Manitoba, March 2008
Langley, B.C., December 2007
Bruce County, Ontario, December 2003
Toronto, Ontario, August 2001

Dogs and Guns

Alright, this may get a little depressing and ranty, but I would really like to know wtf is up with dogs getting shot.  Seriously.

Think back to September of this year.  Calgary police shot a Rottweiler that was on the loose in the NE.  The media reported the dog was “aggressive”, citing that it had bitten one woman, and was subsequently shot when it began to “charge” at the attending officer.  The Calgary Sun – god love ‘em – reported the dog was “rampaging”.  It was shot three times.  It did not die right away, so the officer was then forced to chase the retreating dog for a couple of blocks and shoot it again. 

That incident took place the same month police shot a dog at amidst a crowd at the Adams Morgan festival in D.C.  The media, of course, did not hesitate to mention the dog appeared to be a “pit bull mix”, and there is a strong disagreement between the owner of the dog and the police as to what happened.  The dog’s owner (and one witness) believes he had the dog under control when the police took over and subsequently fatally shot the dog, while the police (and another witness) maintain the dog was certainly dangerous.

And this brings me to the latest, when on November 7 a two year old Newfoundland was shot four times by police in Washington state.  The dog (“Rosie”) had escaped from her yard and someone notified police of the loose dog.  According to the statements to the press, when police located and tried to approach the dog, she growled, barked, showed her teeth, and “charged”.  Initially, an officer deployed a taser, which caused the dog to yelp and run away.  The dog cornered itself in a residential yard where the officers determined lethal force was necessary.

Rosie the Newfoundland

So I will return to my original question:  wtf?  Do the officers involved really believe that shooting these dogs was the only or best solution?  If so, that illustrates a significant problem.  And why wasn’t animal control called in any of these situations?

Yes, police officers are faced with a tough job that puts them in close contact with a wide variety of unsavoury characters.  It’s a thankless career, no question.  And alongside encountering dangerous people, they will also encounter dangerous animals.  It comes with the territory.  And police officers do not draw their guns to wound.  Ever.  If an officer feels an individual is a threat, they will be shot. 

Dogs, however, are not people.  Actually, they’re technically property in the eyes of the law.  But instead of spiralling down into the abyss of legal technicalities and semantics, I want you to consider any time a moose or other wild animal gets loose in Calgary’s downtown core.  It does not get fatally shot; it gets tranquilized and removed.  So what’s with all the gunfire?

I suggest there are far better ways the police could deal with these sorts of situations that involve potentially dangerous dogs.

Consider the Newfoundland Rosie, for instance.  She was trapped in a back yard when she was shot.  How about instead of shooting her, they leave her there until animal services can assess and retrieve her?  Or until the owners can pick her up?  The homeowner of the residence where Rosie was shot told the media she’d have definitely preferred that sort of solution.  And then the authorities could have followed up with some dog-at-large fines for the dog’s owners, and any other penalties associated with animals on the loose.  They could have had animal services do a behaviour assessment, and designate her a “dangerous animal” if necessary.  But I would argue that shooting her four times was not the best solution.  Not even top 5.  Rosie was just someone’s pet who had actually not done any harm whatsoever to a human being.

I have the same criticism with the pit bull story: shooting was not the best route to take.  And in this case, the owner was right there.  Rather than taking his dog from him – and then shooting it – have the owner restrain the dog, remove it from the crowded premises, and then go through the necessary procedures with local animal services.  Deem it an officially “aggressive dog” if you must, but to kill it on-sight – really?

And finally, the Calgary case.  Of course, I was not there, so I will have to take the newspaper reports as accurate, but something did raise my eyebrows: the woman who was bit suffered injuries to her hand but “did not need to be taken to hospital”.  That means the injuries weren’t even worthy of stitches.  Perhaps I am treading in dangerous waters suggesting this, but in the event a large dog is really “aggressive” and truly determined to do harm, it’s going to send you to the hospital if you don’t properly fend off the attack.  The officer was certain the dog was aggressive, and this one had actually injured a person, but I’m still not willing to concede that gunfire was the right approach. 

All dog shootings seem to follow a similar pattern, wherein the attending officer encounters the dog, immediately perceives aggression or danger, and makes a quick decision to use lethal force. 

In contrast to this, as the Newfoundland Club of Seattle points out in its official response to the Rosie incident, “there are notably few incidents where trained animal control officers make the decision escalate a situation to the use lethal force”.  [Emphasis mine.]

What does this mean?  Well, it means more or better training is required for the front-line police officers who are likely to encounter these types of situations.  [Allow a pause for the collective taxpayer groan.]

If the officers in the cases noted above – and the several other dog shootings out there I have not mentioned – had even remedial training in dog behaviour and body language, these situations would have been handled differently.  Likely without shots fired.

Back to the Newfoundland Club of Seattle:

Implementing a training program for the police force would take a minimal effort, but could pay dividends to the force and community. The framework for such a program has already been implemented by the City of Oakland.  Responding to public outcry from a police shooting of a family dog, the Oakland police chief adopted a policy requiring that all of its police officers to receive training in animal behavior and proper methods for containing loose dogs. The program will be paid for by a partnership with a local humane organization. A similar program can and should be put in place in Des Moines and cities and counties throughout Washington. And after seeing the outpouring of support for Rosie and her family, we would venture to guess that there are droves of qualified dog behaviorists and trainers willing to take time to train police officers.

So how about it, Calgary?  Clearly our officers could use a dog behaviour primer.

On November 15, 2010 a vigil was held for Rosie. (Photo: Keith Daige, The Highland Times)

 

And, just as an aside in case you were curious, yes, the average citizen will be charged with aggravated animal cruelty if they shoot a dog.

More Kudos For Calgary’s Animal Services

A tip of my hat (toque?) to Calgary’s Animal Services for now providing a no-cost spay and neuter program for low income pet owners.

I’ve said it before: Calgary’s Animal Services department and by-laws are great examples for how things should be done most everywhere.  And the new spay and neuter assistance program certainly adds to that.

Individuals with yearly incomes less than $18,895, or couples with a combined annual income of less than $23,523, can receive the procedures free from the Animal Services Centre Clinic. 

This will take a huge weight off the shoulders of low-income pet owners, because typically these services do not come cheap.  Just last month when I was calling around for information before getting my cat spayed, I was quoted anywhere between $200 and $600 for the procedure.  While that turned out to be a wide price range, even $200 low end can be quite a lot for many Calgarians.

The new no-cost program is paid for with the revenue received from cat licenses – just another good reason to license your pet, in addition to the city’s new I Heart My Pet rewards program, which offers discounts at local businesses for owners of licensed pets.  

Obviously, this program will help to reduce the number of unwanted pets that end up in shelters in Calgary and the surrounding area.  In 2009, the City of Calgary reports having had to euthanize 22 dogs and 16 cats for reasons only listed as “other”, in other words, not because of a health or behaviour issue that required the animal to be put down.  And the city has recently asked for help with cat adoptions, noting that they are currently at capacity.  Hopefully the no-cost program will help make these numbers lower or even non-existent in the coming years.

And, of course, I think we all know what I propose Calgary’s next big step to be when it comes to our pets: banning the sale of companion animals in pet stores.  Such a by-law will also help diminish the population of rescue animals in the area (no more impulse pet purchases) and help to curb puppy mill sales.  I’ve written this letter to Mayor Nenshi and City Council on the subject, and I encourage anyone else to do the same.

After all, while our city may be pretty great – especially in this category – it can always be greater.

An Open Letter to Mayor Nenshi et al.

After motivating myself with my most recent post, Preventing Puppy Mills, I have sent the following letter to all addressed.  I encourage any like-minded individuals to sign and send a copy of this – or a similar – letter themselves.  All the contact information you need is below.  Let’s make a change!

 

October 19, 2010

Mr. Naheed Nenshi
Office of the Mayor
The City of Calgary
P.O. Box 2100, Station
Calgary, Alberta   T2P 2M5Via E-mail: themayor@calgary.ca
Via Facsimile: 403-268-8130   
 
Aldermanic Offices (8001)
The City of Calgary
P.O. Box 2100, Station M
Calgary, Alberta   T2P 2M5
V
ia Facsimile: 403-268-8091 and
403-268-3823

 

Dear Sirs/Mesdames,

Congratulations to all for your recent election wins!  And congratulations on making this the most exciting civic election Calgary has seen in recent memory.

I know you’re all going to be very busy, adjusting to working together as a team, and tackling issues like the budget, Enmax, and the airport tunnel.  But once the dust settles and you’ve found your groove, I have a request.

As you may or may not know, this month Richmond, B.C. became the first Canadian city to agree to ban the sale of dogs and puppies in pet stores.  Their by-law is expected to be finally adopted in November and to take effect on April 30, 2011.

I would like Calgary to follow suit. 

I am requesting that our new city council work together on a by-law to prevent the sale of companion animals (dogs and cats) in pet stores.  This is a slight expansion on Richmond’s by-law, since I am proposing Calgary ban the sale of all companion animals in pet stores, not just dogs.

Calgary is a very progressive city when it comes to its By-Law and Animals Services, and we are held as an example world-wide on how we deal with our animal laws.  As our city’s population grows, the number of “aggressive dog incidents” is on the decline, and it is no coincidence; we hold owners responsible for their pets’ actions.  We don’t discriminate on size or breed, and our city is also a leader in pet licensing, with estimates stating over 90% of pet dogs in our city our licensed.

A by-law preventing the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores can only add to our résumé.

Preventing the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores does two things:

1.  It eliminates a medium through which puppy mills sell their dogs and “kitten factories” sell their kittens; and

2.  It prevents the impulse purchase of pets. 

Point (1) should be obvious.  Puppy mills and “kitten factories” are high volume breeders who have little to no regard to the mental and physical well being of both their “breeding stock” animals and the offspring they sell.  The animals are bred in sub-standard and inhumane conditions – often in dirty, cramped kennels, literally living in their own feces.  They experience zero socialisation with other animals or human beings, and are malnourished and over-bred.  There is no concern for hereditary health conditions or inbreeding; the goal is to produce and sell as many puppies and kittens as possible.  Look it up – the horrors will make your stomach churn.  These puppies and kittens are then taken from their parents well before the recommended 8-10 week age, resulting in inevitable behaviour issues, just so that they are young and cute for the pet store window.  The squalid conditions they are born in and the disregard for proper breeding standards often results in serious undiagnosed and hereditary medical health problems.  And then, once owners are faced with these unexpected problems, these animals usually end up in shelters.

This leads us to point (2), preventing impulse pet purchases, which will help reduce the population of rescue animals.  Pet owners who did not properly think through their purchase and what they were getting into are a large supplier of rescue dogs in the first instance. 

In addition, not allowing pet stores to sell companion animals will allow rescue organizations and reputable breeders to fill the niche.  Shelter adoptions will increase, and as a result euthanasia will decrease.  Albuquerque, New Mexico has noticed a shelter adoption increase of 23% and euthanasia decrease of 35% since enacting their ban in 2006.

No, bans like the proposed will not completely solve the problem, since the internet is still a popular tool used by puppy mills and the like, but it does remove one medium of sale while also creating public awareness.

And if we look to Richmond, B.C. as an example (and the several American cities with similar bans in place), such a by-law is generally met with widespread public support.  Granted, a couple of pet stores will undoubtedly voice their opposition, but Richmond’s Mayor Brodie said it best: “It seems to be acknowledged by all the parties that there is a problem with so-called puppy mills, that sell dogs in very high volumes and that are subjected to inhumane treatment.  So it’s a question of how do we deal with that. At the local level, there are only a few levers at our disposal, and we want to do what we can.”

I would like Calgary to do what it can.

For this, I would like to provide you with the section of Albuquerque’s Code of Ordinances on this issue as an example (Ch. 9, Article 2):

§ 9-2-4-4   SALE OR GIFT OF AN ANIMAL.

(A) Public Property.  No Person shall display, sell, deliver, offer for sale, barter, auction, give away, or otherwise dispose of an Animal upon a street, sidewalk, public park, public right-of-way or other public property.  Adoption events approved by the Mayor, or any adoption events held by a Rescue Group or Rescue individual are exempt.

(B) Commercial Property.  No Person shall display, sell, deliver, offer for sale, barter, auction, give away, or otherwise dispose of any Animal upon commercial property including parking lots, with or without the property owner’s permission.  [Permit] Holders are limited to the property the Permit was issued for.  Adoption events approved by the Mayor are exempt.

(C) Residential Property.  No Person shall display, sell, deliver, offer for sale, barter, auction, give away, or otherwise dispose of any Companion Animal puppies or kittens upon residential property without a Litter Permit.

(D) Sales Incentives.  No Person shall offer a live Animal as an incentive to purchase merchandise or as a premium, prize, award, or novelty.

(E) Advertising.  No Person shall advertise puppies or kittens for sale in any local periodical without a valid Litter Permit number conspicuously listed in the advertisement.   No Person shall advertise any Animal for sale in the City of Albuquerque using any roadside signs, flyers, handbills or billboards.

With this in mind, I request council consider a similar addition to Calgary’s by-laws.

I thank you very much for your time.

Yours truly,

Jen _________
Voter; Ward ___ Resident

 

Copies To:
Dale Hodges, Ward 1 Alderman, dalehodges@telus.net

Gord Lowe, Ward 2 Alderman, gord.lowe@calgary.ca; gordlowe@gordlowe.org

Jim Stevenson, Ward 3 Alderman, ward03@calgary.ca
Gael Macleod, Ward 4 Alderman, ward04@calgary.ca  
Ray Jones, Ward 5 Alderman, aldjones@telus.net
Richard Pootmans, Ward 6 Alderman, ward06@calgary.ca, richardp@richard4ward6.com
Druh Farrell, Ward 7 Alderman, ward07@calgary.ca
John Mar, Ward 8 Alderman, ward08@calgary.ca
Gian-Carlo Carra, Ward 9 Alderman, ward09@calgary.ca
Andre Chabot, Ward 10 Alderman, ward10@calgary.ca
Brian Pincott, Ward 11 Alderman, ward11@calgary.ca
Shane A. Keating, Ward 12 Alderman, ward12@calgary.ca, shane@shanekeating.ca
Diane Colley-Urquhart, Ward 13 Alderman, ward13@calgary.cadcolley@calgary.ca

Pe
ter Demong, Ward 14 Alderman, ward14@calgary.ca

City Clerk’s Office, cityclerk@calgary.ca

City of Calgary, Animal & By-Law Services, via facsimile: 403-268-4927

 Calgary Humane Society, humane.education@calgaryhumane.ca